The Sta”m Chronicle

19 Elul 5773 – August 25, 2013

I have learned that R’ Reuvain Mendlowitz, the author of “Inside Sta”m, a Complete Buyers Guide”  has begun writing a Sta”m newsletter.
Viewing this as an opportunity to help raise awareness (which is his goal and mine), I asked for permission to post the newsletter on our site.
R’ Mendlowitz graciously granted permission.

Elul is time for a Jew to take stock. As Rosh Hashanah approaches one must consider his position in all areas of life vis-a-vis HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Clearly, mitzvos that come around frequently demand a fair amount of attention. The mitzvos included in Sta”m (an acronym for Sifrei Torah, Tefillin And Mezuzos) are unique in terms of their regularity. While many, if not most mitzvos asei (positive commandments) come at infrequent intervals – be it yearly (Succah, Matzah etc.), monthly (Kiddush HaChodesh) or weekly (Shabbos) – Sta”m is a mitzvah that is pertinent to every Jew on a consistent basis. Mezuzah is relevant every minute of every day of one’s life, while Tefillin are worn some 300 days a year. Sifrei Torah are read from about 200 days a year.

Yet for many of us, these mitzvos command minimal attention. What is especially perplexing is the fact that while great sums are expended on their purchase, minimal energy is expended researching their purchase. Mezuzos for one’s home can run well over $1000, tefillin the same, while for Sifrei Torah some are prepared to spend $50,000 or more! Any normal person purchasing other, mundane, items at these same prices researches the item well before finalizing the deal. Yet these same “normal” people will go ahead with the aforementioned Sta”m purchases relying solely on the word of the Sofer or broker.

I had the opportunity to spend a number of weeks visiting family in the New York area over the recent summer “vacation”. (Whether parents traveling 6000 miles each way with all the kids qualifies as a vacation is debatable). I was informed that the proprietor of one of the local Judaica/Seforim stores had read my sefer Inside Sta”m, enjoyed it very much and had actually sold dozens of copies. I decided to drop in and say hello. We had a very pleasant discussion for a few moments; then the conversation turned to the Sta”m he sells in the store.
“Since I know nothing about Sta”m, I used to give some of the mezuzos to R’ _____ to check for me before I sell them, but then I stopped”, he said. When I asked why he stopped using this well-known and reliable magiah (Sta”m checker), his answer astonished me, “I couldn’t continue using him because he would ‘make problems’ with too much of the stuff!” “You mean you sell it anyway?!” I asked. “Sure”, he replied, “you see, it comes from Eretz Yisrael already checked, and if I go with his ‘chumros’ I won’t have anything to sell!”
I then asked him who in Eretz Yisrael he buys his “stuff” from. He gave me the name. Apparently my disapproval of his choice registered on my face. He quickly recovered protesting, “I know he also knows nothing about Sta”m, but I get it with a note saying that it was already checked by a magiah.”

So to recap; here we have someone who readily admits he knows nothing about Sta”m, purchasing from a wholesaler who also knows nothing about Sta”m, selling mezuzos in the heart of the largest Jewish Metropolis in the Diaspora. Few of these mezuzos are l’chatchilah and some may not be kosher at all according to Rabbi _____, a leading expert in Sta”m.

And here’s the punchline; unfortunately, he is not the exception. Having been in the field for over a decade, I am well aware that this scenario is all too common.

So with Elul here, I have decided to take stock. I will be’h send out an informative and educational email once every two or three weeks to benefit the general public. Sometimes it will contain original material, sometimes it will be adapted from Inside Sta”m to complement this format. I hope it, alongside Inside Sta”m, can serve as a catalyst to raise the level of Sta”m being purchased by well-meaning Jews the world over.


Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz is a practicing magiah who lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He has certification from the Vaad Mishmeres Sta”m for Safrus and Hagahah. He has received Rabbinical semichah for psak in Sta”m from HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Friedlander, Posek for Mishmeres Sta”m in Yerushalayim and the Badatz Eidah HaChareidis Sta”m division. Rabbi Mendlowitz has authored the acclaimed sefer “Inside Sta”m, A Complete Buyer’s Guide” (Israel Bookshop 2012) and is in the process of preparing a Hebrew version for print. He lectures in Eretz Yisrael and the U.S. to raise consumer awareness in these areas. Rabbi Mendlowitz may be contacted at

If you have a Sta”m question, please email JKN at and it will be forwarded to Rabbi Mendlowitz. Questions and the rabbi’s responses will be posted to the website anonymously.


One comment

  • Yosef Resnick
    August 25, 2013 - 17:04 | Permalink

    As a sofer, I regularly see STaM bought from a local major Judaica store, and from Eretz Yisrael, that have major problems. Sometimes I can fix things, sometimes not. I once told someone to take about 6 mezuzas they had just bought from this local store back and get their money back. It is disheartening….

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